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HOLODOMOR OF 1932-33 IN UKRAINE

DOCUMENTS AND MATERIALS

Compiled by Prof. Ruslan Pyrih
Translated by Stephen Bandera

Kyiv Mohyla Academy Publishing House
Kyiv, 2008.


Introduction

Foreword

HOLODOMOR DOCUMENTS

The Holodomor of 1932-33 was one of the most horrific periods in modern Ukraine's history. Inspired by the Communist regime of the time, it was a crime against humanity that took millions of lives. When Ukraine gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country embarked on the difficult path of understanding the causes, events and consequences of that national catastrophe. On November 28, 2006, Ukraine's parliament enacted legislation that recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

The topic of the Holodomor has been widely researched by domestic and foreign scholars. Today, the historical record on the Holodomor totals more than 10,000 publications. The number of sources being introduced to academic discourse is constantly growing. The archival base is also expanding, primarily with documents found in Ukraine's regional archives. Important work is being conducted in compiling and publishing the memoirs of victims and eyewitness accounts. Using these primary sources, countless academic conferences, symposiums and discussion groups have taken place.

Ukrainian diplomatic missions, Diaspora organizations and academics have embarked upon an international public awareness campaign whose goal is to disseminate the truth about this tragedy. The parliaments and governments of 14 states have already recognized the Holodomor in Ukraine as genocide.

Yet the international community remains poorly informed about the causes, nature and scale of this terrible event. The current volume contains first-hand sources that will provide readers with a better understanding of:

how the USSR's top leadership launched a campaign of famine and terror against the Ukrainian people;

  • the role of the Communist Party and its local branches in grain procurements and the confiscation of all foodstuffs;
  • the goal-oriented, systematic nature of repressive measures: villages placed on blacklists, travel bans, deportations, arrests;
  • massive mortality rates due to malnutrition, cannibalism and necrophagia.

The documents, presented here in chronological order, can be classified in five groups, according to their origins. The first group is from the Soviet Union's highest government bodies: the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (bolshevik), the Council of Peoples' Commissars of the USSR, Peoples' Commissariats, the Procurements Committee, the State Political Administration (OGPU), the All-Union Resettlement Committee, and others. i

The second group of documents comes from the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic's top government structures: the Central Committee of the Communist Party (bolshevik) of Ukraine, the Council of Peoples' Commissars and Peoples' Commissariats of the Ukrainian SSR, the republican GPU political police, Prosecutor General's Office, and others.

The third group contains documents from local government entities: oblast, city and raion Communist Party and executive committees, GPU units, the police, courts, local prosecutors' offices, village councils, and so on. ii

The fourth group consists of dispatches from foreign diplomatic missions. The fifth group contains letters, statements and appeals written by individual Soviet citizens.

Documents from top Soviet leadership reveal the primary factor that made the Holodomor possible: the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic was not sovereign. All state structures were subordinate to the All-Union Communist Party and Soviet government in Moscow and they were governed by resolutions, directives and instructions issued from above. The most important political and administrative deci-

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i The Council of Peoples' Commissars was essentially a Cabinet of Ministers with each Commissariat (ministry) headed by a Peoples' Commissar (minister). The Council, formally called the Soviet Narodnykh Komisariv, was also called Sovnarkom or SNK. A commissariat was also called a narkomat and a commissar was also referred to as a narkom.

ii In 1932 the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic was comprised of six, later seven oblasts (states, provinces) that were made up of more than 360 raions (districts, counties). Currently these areas account for 17 of Ukraine's 25 oblasts.
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sions were made in the Kremlin by the highest Party organ: the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (b), led by its General Secretary, Iosef Stalin.

Ukraine was vitally important to the Soviet empire's economic, political and geostrategic plans. Ukraine's industrial and agricultural potential provided the foundation for the national security of the entire Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the republic's rural residents remained a breeding ground for Ukrainian patriotism and independence movements and actively resisted collectivization, grain procurement plans and forced "sovietization." In Stalin's own words, the danger of "losing Ukraine" defined Moscow's unrelenting attention and besieging measures.

Over 1932-33, the Politburo met 69 times. During these meetings, 270 agenda items pertained directly to Ukraine. An analysis of the minutes from these meetings shows that 75 percent of all Ukraine-related items concerned agricultural production. They also reveal the iron-fisted policies toward Ukraine as the primary food donor for Soviet industrial centers, armed forces, government reserve funds, grain exports, and so on. Thus, the lion's share of Politburo resolutions was devoted to grain procurements, harvesting and sowing campaigns in the republic. These documents describe the measures used to achieve the strategic goal of ensuring that Ukraine fulfilled the grain procurement plan at all costs. Using political methods, the totalitarian regime organized mechanisms for the confiscation of all food, thus condemning millions of villagers to suffering and death from starvation.

The most common Central Committee documents are Politburo resolutions. They illustrate the Soviet center's uncompromising diktat for Ukraine to adopt a 1932 grain procurement target of 356 million poods. iii Resistance among local leaders was so strong that Stalin ordered two of his heavyweights to Ukraine: Vyacheslav Molotov and Lazar Kaganovich. Exerting brutal pressure, they forced the Ukrainian Soviet republic's leaders to adopt the quota. Its infeasibility was apparent from the very outset and targets were lowered on several occasions.

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iii A unit of weight of the Russian Imperial measurement system, a pood is equivalent to 16.38 kilograms (36.11 pounds). There are 40 funts (0.41 kilograms, 0.9 pounds) in a pood.
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These Politburo resolutions also reveal the barbarous, inhuman means for extracting all grain and food from the dying Ukrainian countryside. By the end of 1932, a special commission set up by Molotov and Kaganovich launched a cycle of bloody mass repressions. The Politburo issued decree after decree ordering the deportation of thousands of families from Ukraine. Stalin's henchmen were authorized to pass summary judgment during the period of grain procurement to combat "counterrevolution."

The Krernlin's Politburo also passed resolutions on sowing, food, fodder and technical assistance to the Ukrainian republic. These "relief efforts" were highly selective in nature and offered primarily to select wheat-and-beet producing raions, Red Army collective farms, and those collective farms located near the republic's borders.

Politburo documents also provide astriking insight into what the Kremlin's "fuhrer" really thought about the Soviet leadership of Ukraine. Correspondence between Stalin and Kaganovich revealed a condescending, negative attitude towards Ukraine's Bolshevik leaders. Stanislaw Kosior is described as "criminally indifferent." Vias Chubar is denounced for his "opportunistic essence," and Hryhori Petrovsky is accused of "feigning a saint victimized by CC AUCP(b) directives." iv Altogether, they are referred to as the "Ukrainian dernobilizers.' The Communist Party of Ukraine is described as being "not a Party, but a parliament, a caricature of a parliament... within the Ukrainian Communist Party (500,000 members, ha-ha), there is no lack (yes, no lack) of rotten elements, active and latent petliurites and direct agents of Pilsudski.' v

Ukraine's failure to fulfill the 1932 grain procurement plan led to the strengthening of Stalin's resolve to change the republic's leadership. The All-Union Politburo made Pavel Postyshev the Second Secretary of Ukraine's Central Committee and First Secretary of the Kharkiv oblast Party committee, appointed Nikolai Popov

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iv Stanislaw Kosior (1889-1939) was the Secretary of the Politburo the Communist Party (bolshevik) of Ukraine. Vias Chubar (1891-1939) was chairman of the Council of Peoples' Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR. Hryhori Petrovsky (18781958) was the chairman of the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee. During the Holodomor of 1932-1933, all three were members ofthe Politburo the Communist Party (bolshevik) of Ukraine.

v"Petliurites" refers to Ukrainian leader Symon Petliura (1879-1926) who headed independent Ukraine's government in 1919. "Agents of Pilsudski" is a reference to the Polish statesman and leader [ozef Pilsudski (1867-1935).
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Secretary for ideological affairs, and made Vsevolod Balitsky the head of the GPU political police. vi Kosior and Chubar remained in their posts, but Postyshev became the "first person" of the republic.

The Kremlin also directly appointed the heads of the Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa and Donetsk oblast Party committees. In 1933, twothirds of all raion-level secretaries and chairmen were replaced.

Thus, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party made the political, economic and personnel decisions that resulted in cataclysm, famine and widespread death in the Ukrainian countryside in 1932-33.

Documents from the All-Union executive government contain valuable insights into how a food shortage was artificially created in Ukraine. A special super-departmental government structure was created: the Procurement Committee of the Soviet Union. This committee was granted extraordinary powers over grain procurement and forced plans developed by other Soviet government agencies to be shelved. The Procurement Committee's resolutions deserve special attention: they primarily pertain to the execution of grain procurement plans according to specific regions, sectors and grains. The committee also made decisions on repressions, including the firing and prosecution of procurement managers in Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv oblasts.

The Procurement Committee's demands that Ukraine meet planned export quotas for everything from first-call wheat to bran were unrelenting and they produced results. In early December 1932, the head of the Council of Peoples' Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR, Chubar, reported to Moscow that the republic had delivered 110 percent of planned grain exports.

Documents from another All-Union institution are also very important to understand the consequences of the Holodomor in Ukraine. In August 1933, the Politburo of the CC of the All-Union Communist Party (b) established the All-Union Resettlement Com mittee. It was responsible for coordinating the relocation of people from Belarus and Russia into areas depopulated by famine in Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus. In an August 1933 resolution, the Council of Peoples' Commissars of the USSR ordered 20,000 families resettled to Ukraine's Steppe. At the end of December 1933, the committee reported that the plan for resettling collective farmers to Ukraine was over-fulfilled at 104 percent.

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vi Pavel Postyshev (1887-1939) was a Secretary of the Central Committee, AllUnion Communist Party (1930-1933). He was Secretary of the Central Committee, Communist Party (bolshevik) of Ukraine for two separate terms (1926-1930 and 1933-1937). Vsevolod Balitsky (1892-1937) was the deputy head of the OGPU (1931-1934). He also headed the GPU political police in Ukraine (1933-1937). Nikolai Popov (1890-1937) was a member ofthe Pravda newspaper's editorial board (1929-1933).
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Documents from Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic government bodies contain the most detailed information about how the executors of the famine engineered this cataclysm. They show the Ukrainian leadership's complete subservience to Moscow as the Union center and how their hands were used to purposefully destroy the Ukrainian people.

Most of these documents are resolutions. Essentially parroting Moscow's directives, they illustrate how political and organizational force was used to institute a system of performance control and to create a "conveyer belt" for passing resolutions and relaying them to subordinate organs.

In 1932-33, Ukraine's Politburo passed nearly 650 resolutions concerning the countryside. The most pertinent documents for understanding the causes and events of the Holodomor are its resolutions on grain procurement. The minutes from the meetings of the republic's highest government body show that "grain procurement" was really an instrument for the forceful extraction of food from the Ukrainian people, thus creating the Holodomor.

A rich source of facts can be found in the speeches, reports and summaries addressed to the Central Committee of the Ukrainian republic. They detail the scale of famine in separate regions, high mortality rates, cannibalism, livestock losses, the disruption of sowing campaigns, the anti-Soviet mood, resistance to grain procurement plans and the use of repressions against "malicious saboteurs."

Other important sources are this Committee's notes, letters and telegrams. These documents performed the role of official reports and appeals to the Kremlin. They were typically signed by Kosior, at times together with Chubar. They show the extent to which the Kharkiv Communist Party was Moscow's vassal and expose the moral and personal qualities of Soviet leaders in their attitudes toward millions of dying Ukrainians. vii

A comparison of information sent by Ukraine's Central Committee to Moscow with other documents in the collection prove that Kosior portrayed the situation in Ukraine to be less critical than it really was. One such overt lie was Kosior's claim in a letter sent to Stalin in late April 1932 "any talk of 'famine' in Ukraine should be categorically dismissed." He wrote this at a time when starvation and death in Ukraine reached their peak that year.

Documents from republican executive bodies are specific to their administrative duties. Reports addressed the state of agriculture, pace of sowing and harvesting campaigns, raion-specific information, famine, and deaths. For example, in a March 14, 1933 letter, Peoples' Commissar Odyntsev provided grizzly statistics on the scale of famine, mortality and cannibalism in Kyiv oblast, adding: "These numbers are just an illustration. Registries are not being kept." He demanded "crucial food relief" for the oblast.

Documents from the criminal justice ministries and political policing structures are most numerous among the Ukrainian SSR executive branch archives. These structures included the GPU political police, the Peoples' Commissariat of Justice and the Ukrainian SSR Prosecutor General's Office. They are most numerous because repressions of Ukrainians were massive in number. These were the structures responsible for executing repressions and they kept very detailed records of their activities.

GPU documents provide detailed statistics of grain procurement repressions according to village and oblast, crimes committed, sentences, punitive measures, and so on.

GPU information about the Holodomor from the first part of 1932 was episodic in nature and focused more on the political mood of the population. As famine grew more massive in scale in 1933, the GPU began to file regular reports to the CC CP(b)D. These reports provide statistics and detailed tables of areas engulfed by famine, residential communities, families of victims, adults and children, the sick, swollen and dead, instances of cannibalism, necrophagia and

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vii Kharkivwas the first capital of Soviet Ukraine (1917-1934).
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relief efforts. But even the GPU information does not provide the entire picture of deaths from famine and related diseases. The Kyiv oblast GPU chief warned: "The quoted numbers are significantly lower because the raion apparatuses of the GPU are not keeping a death registry and some village councils do not know the real number of those who died from famine."

Documents from the Ukrainian SSR's Commissariat of Justice, Prosecutor's Office (essentially a single institution - R. P.) and Supreme Court show how closely these structures were incorporated into the general system of maintaining "revolutionary lawfulness", which resulted in state-organized terror in the Ukrainian countryside. The infamous Law of August 7, 1932 "On protecting the property of state enterprises, collective farms and cooperatives" transformed the courts into factories of judicial repression. Courts were ordered to hear grain procurement cases out of turn and mobile courts were organized to travel through the regions. An additional five to ten courts were set up in every oblast.

The republican Peoples' Commissariat of Healthcare provided some information concerning death rates. For example, on June 3, 1933, the Commissar filed a report on the status of health in 66 raions of Kyiv oblast considered to be the "most grave." The numbers reflect the dynamic spread of famine, disease and mortality on three separate dates: March 25, April 5 and April 15. The corresponding numbers of dead were 14,548, 26,479 and 27,809. The Commissar also stated that the reported number of dead was "significantly lowered."

Documents from the third group of historical sources - local government structures, institutions and organizations - are important because they provide details of the processes and events in each community and show the concerns often expressed by local leaders. Reports from the lowest level of the Communist Party apparatus provide factual information for specific raions, villages, families and individuals.

The campaign of political repressions against local leaders inspired by Stalin forced raion and city committees of the CP(b)U to resort to extraordinarily brutal methods of grain procurement. For example, the Voroshylov city Party committee in Donetsk oblast in January 1933 used savage measures in the village of Horodyshche, which had already been blacklisted: All trade was banned, food supplies were taken away from 1,020 persons, including collective farmers and industrial workers; loans were collected ahead of term, tractors were confiscated and the collective farm was cleansed of "kulaks, serni-kulaks, speculators and loafers;" entire "kulak" families were deported, the "kolhosp" administration went before the courts, the sowing seed reserve was requisitioned for grain procurement, and so on. viii

Materials from the raion-level of the totalitarian system show that most local leaders abided by the rules set from above. They maintained silence and downplayed the scale of the disaster, relied on socialist "class warfare" definitions to categorize the starving, and never strayed from the official interpretation of the famine's causes.

The fourth group of documents, from foreign diplomatic missions, is not large but is significant because the reports provide independent assessments from foreigners on the tragic events of the 1930s, including their causes and effects. A dispatch sent by the Consul General of Germany from Kharkiv in March 1932 pointed out the inconsistency between official Soviet propaganda and the catastrophic decline of material conditions: a reduction in bread rations and ration card deliveries, and the forceful requisition of grain and food from the countryside.

A dispatch from the Italian Consul in Kharkiv, titled "Famine and the Ukrainian situation", sent on May 31, 1932 was exceptionally analytical. The diplomat could not find an answer to the basic question: Why was the world indifferent to this disaster? Why was the international press "silent about this mass murder organized by the Soviet government?" He asserted that the famine had been purposefully organized "to teach the villagers a lesson."

The Italian Consul ascribed these motives for the Soviet leaders' actions: the villagers' passive resistance to collectivization, the conviction that Ukrainian "ethnographic material" could never be "turned into integral Communists and the need to 'denationalize' the areas where Ukrainian and German national awareness was on the rise, in order to

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viii According to Soviet ideology, "kulaks" were wealthy farmers and landowners designated as "class enemies:' The word "kolhosp" is the shortened form of "kolektyvne hospodarstvo," the Ukrainian term for collective farm ("kolkhoz" in Russian).
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avoid possible political turmoil." The dispatch concluded that the famine would result in the colonization of Ukraine by Russians, change its ethnographic nature and transform the country into a Russian region. To support his arguments, the diplomat provided facts about the famine and widespread mortality in Left-Bank Ukraine.

In July 1933, the same diplomat sent another dispatch entitled "Famine and sanitary conditions." Based on information from different sources and his own observations, he reported high death rates among the rural population, thousands of beggars in the city who were being hunted, caught and taken away to dead-end places, and cannibalism that had reached monstrous proportions. Ukraine was stricken by typhus, dysentery and other illnesses caused by famine. Yet doctors were forbidden from collecting information or even speaking about the epidemics.

Interesting facts are also contained in the Italian Vice-Consul's dispatch from Batumi in January 1933. He told the story of thousands of starving Ukrainians arriving in Adjara. Three times a week, 1,000-2,000 people arrived in boats from Odesa. The diplomat estimated they numbered in the several hundred thousands. He provided exceptional details about the way they were shipped back to Ukraine. Those who did not have money for the return boat trip were taken to the market under police guard and forced to sell their clothes to raise enough ticket money. "Everything is done by order, silently, which does not make the scene less tragic, and after a while it resembles a slave market..." wrote Francesco Zasso.

Noteworthy is a report from September 18, 1933 written by Otto Schiller, an agricultural expert at the German Embassy, entitled "Famine in the Soviet Union." He analyzed the causes of the famine and identified the brutal requisition of all food as its primary cause. "As a result of local chaos, or on orders from above, the last kernel of grain was systematically extracted from the villages, to bring the villagers to their knees through famine and force them to work on collective farms." Without access to any official statistics on deaths, the German analyst estimated that 10 million people had died of famine in Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus and the Volga region.

Documents in the fifth and final group are individual letters, written statements, complaints and appeals. These are highly-descriptive psychological records of individual experiences during the cataclysm. They reflect the widespread disapproval of collectivization policies and grain procurement methods and the brutality of repressions. They detail the artificial nature of the famine and the intentional murder of Ukrainians through the requisition of food, excessive fines and taxes, property confiscation, disease, arrests, court proceedings, exiles and executions. These documents are full of naive human faith in justice and the apathy of the condemned. They contain stories of the struggle to find truth, shelter and relief, of unspeakable pain, impotent rage and of heightened survival instincts.

The most common issues raised by farmers were impractical grain procurement quotas and devastating requisitions of grain, sowing seed and food. There are many complaints about Politburo decisions on "dekulakization," expulsions from collective farms, excessive fines, seizures of land, livestock and property, deportations, and so on. These authors provide the facts of the famine: numbers of swollen and dead in specific villages, farms and familes. They cry out for help and plead for food to save their children.

This collection includes documents from the fonds of the Central State Archives of Civic Associations of Ukraine (TsDAHO), Central State Archive of Supreme Bodies of Government of Ukraine (TsDAVO), State Branch Archive of the SBU State Security Service of Ukraine (DA SBU) and Oblast State Archives (DAs).

It also includes documents from archives found in the Russian Federation: the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF), the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) and the Russian State Archive of Economy (RGAE).

The original-language version of this collection, published in 2007, contains 680 documents. This current volume includes 73 documents and materials. Many have been excerpted, with non-thematic portions of texts left out. The documents have exact dates and only three are dated approximately, but within a specific month. All official documents were classified as "Top Secret" or "Secret", thus their level of confidentiality is not indicated here. The names of oblasts, raions and villages are provided according to the administrative-territorial divisions of the time.

This collection contains a foreword, notes, glossary and list of documents. Under the text of each document, readers will find a legend consisting of the archive name, fond number, list number, file number and sheet number. The glossary of abbreviations, acronyms and foreign words is in alphabetical order.

Previously-published documents are identified according to the collections where they first appeared. The number represents the name of the publication followed by page numbers. These publications are numbered as follows:

  • Famine of 1993-1933 in Ukraine: Through the eyes of historians, in the language of documents, (Kyiv, 1990, 606 pp) Holod 1932-1933 rokiv na Ukraini: ochyma istorykiv, movoyu dokumentiv
  • Collectivization and famine in Ukraine, 1929-1933, (Kyiv, 1992, 734 pp) Kolektyvizatsia i holod na Ukraini 1929-1933
  • Tragedy of the Soviet countryside: Collectivization and dekulakization, documents and materials in five volumes, Vol. 3. (Moscow, 2001, 1007 pp) Tragedia sovietskoi derevni. Kolektyvizatsia i raskulachivanie. Dokumenty i materialy: v 5 tomakh
  • Stalin and Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936 (Moscow, 2001,798 pp) Stalin i Kaganovich. Perepyska. 1931-1936
  • Commanders of the Great Famine: V. Molotov and L. Kaganovich trips to Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus, 1932-1933, (Kyiv, 2001, 399 pp) Komandyry velykoho holodu: poyizdky V. Molotova i L. Kaganovicha v Ukrainu i na Pivnichnyi Kavkaz. 19321933.
  • Top Secret: From Lubianka to Stalin on the state of the country in four volumes (Moscow, 2001, Volume 4) "Sovershenno sekretno': Lubianka - Stalinu 0 polozhenii v strane: V 4 t.

Finally, the editorial board acknowledges and expresses its gratitude to Prof. Yuri Shapoval, Prof. Roman Serbyn, Marta D. Olynyk and Lidia Wolanskyj for their support and contribution in preparing this publication.

 

Professor Ruslan Pyrih


Famine-Genocide Commemorative Committee
Ukrainian Canadian Congress
Toronto Branch
© November 2002

 

 

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